Ian Spohn, ND, is a staff naturopathic doctor for Energique who enjoys challenging the dogmas of both conventional and alternative medicine. He is a passionate supporter of the paleo diet and classical homeopathy.
As a healthcare provider, there are few things more satisfying than watching a patient’s condition improve or resolve completely with a single treatment. Among the many holistic treatment modalities, homeopathy is one of few that targets the vital force directly, and has been the agent of some of the most dramatic natural cures, in some cases the sole agent. In some cases, it is a single dose of a single remedy, and these cases are perhaps the most satisfying although more often, it requires repetition of the remedy or multiple remedies to achieve a satisfying result, as anyone who has worked with homeopathy knows. Samuel Hahnemann himself, the first proponent of homeopathy, wrote that when a single remedy could not cure a case, a series of complementary remedies can be given, and although he staunchly advocated prescribing a single remedy at a time, he was also known to deviate from his own principle, for instance alternating Bryonia and Rhus Tox in his treatment of certain fevers.
For many common health conditions, especially those for which a short list of the most commonly indicated remedies is known, it is extremely convenient and often effective to prescribe remedies in combination. The disadvantages of resorting to a homeopathic single remedy are quite numerous: it requires substantially more time and effort to choose a single remedy from among so many possibilities, a very careful follow-up is needed to determine if the remedy is actually working, and when giving a single remedy the chances are far greater that the remedy will be wrong, that is not be similar enough to act. So why use single remedies? The truth is that while combination remedies are often effective, the correct single remedy will often work better when given in isolation, resulting in deeper and likely more rapid cures.
This fact, of course, does not invalidate the use of remedies in combination. Although scientific evidence for homeopathy is comparatively scant, it does exist and there are trials supporting the efficacy of combination remedies. In a 1987 study[i] conducted in France, pregnant women were given a combination homeopathic remedy to support childbirth. If contained several of the remedies most often found useful to facilitate childbirth, such as Caulophyllum, Cimicifuga, and Pulsatilla, and compared to placebo shortened the duration of labor by an average of 3.5 hours. It also reduced the rate of complications by 71%, proving quite incontestably that homeopathic remedies work in combination, which is to say they don’t interfere with one another. Though according to Hahnemann, who strictly advocated the use of single remedies, the vital force is only truly capable of responding to one remedy at a time, suggesting that when combination remedies are successful, it is likely to be the case that one remedy within the combination is doing most of the work, regardless of and perhaps even in spite of the others. It should be noted that there are differing opinions on this: the French school of homeopathy for instance, which pioneered the use of drainage and organ support remedies alongside the primary ones, would claim that it is possible for remedies to work synergistically. Nevertheless, it seems to be the case that if a patient’s similimum is Lycopodium, a combination remedy containing Lycopodium will have almost the same effect as if Lycopodium were given in isolation, regardless of how incompatible may be the other remedies taken alongside it.
In these cases, how is it possible that the vital force somehow “knows” which remedy to respond to among so many choices given? Some people claim there is an inherent wisdom residing in the vital force, as in the diseased body intuitively understands what it requires to heal, and identifies the correct remedy from the group as by some psychic inference. This cited phenomenon provides much of the basis to applied kinesiology. The advocates of Hahnemann’s more classical approach, however, might argue differently, in essence that it seems unlikely the body’s vital force is smart enough to somehow rationally choose which homeopathic remedy it wants to respond to within a combination. If the vital force was really that intelligent, then why is it producing harmful, ineffectual symptoms that should require a remedy in the first place? Hahnemann actually states in his Organon of Medicine that he thinks the vital force is stupid, hence why people so frequently develop illness despite their having one. But if the vital force is not choosing, only passively reacting in a mostly inappropriate manner to any disease-producing influence it comes across (hence why the similar remedy is able to cure), why do combinations of remedies not confuse and overwhelm the vital force to the extent that it obfuscates the cure?
When the body responds to a specific homeopathic remedy within a combination, while at the same time ignoring remedies alongside it which may not be useful, the explanation most likely has to do with the fact that the disease itself is able to make the body more sensitive to specific remedies, namely those most similar to the disease. The reason a close homeopathic similimum can act so dramatically in such an attenuated form as say, a 30X dilution, is in fact that in its diseased state, the body becomes increasingly sensitive to certain influences. For instance, if you were to briefly smell a disagreeable odor, it would probably not make you vomit, or have any real effect on you at all beyond perhaps a transient sense of disgust. It would probably not be enough to even provoke nausea. But if you were already suffering from profound nausea, a mere whiff of some nauseating smell could well be sufficient to induce you to vomit. In such a state, as can be proven by experience, even the mere thought of something disgusting could be enough to make you vomit. You’re so sensitive in such a state, that even an intangible idea from the realm of intellect, with no basis in physical reality, can be enough to further sicken you, which is indeed why a remedy composed of structured water with no trace of its physical substance remaining can also be enough to cure you. So if you were to take a combination of 30X dilutions, you would only be sensitive to each remedy to the extent that it is the similmum of your current symptoms, the rest of them having little to no effect on you, just as a person with no symptoms at all could likely take the whole bottle of the combination remedy and experience nothing. It is not that the body chooses which remedies it needs, but that in a given state, it is only rendered susceptible to the remedy it needs, which is part of the genius of homeopathy and the reason for its relative safety.
It is not likely that the “wrong” remedies in a combination can interfere significantly with the “right” one, given that the “wrongness” of a remedy seems inversely proportional to its effect on the vital force, especially in dilute potency. This is why a single drop of a 30C remedy can cure a sick person, while at the same time an entire bottle of such can do nothing to a healthy person. It should stand to reason that if a remedy is not at all similar to a person’s symptoms, the reaction it draws from the vital force would be too trivial to interfere with the action of the correct remedy given at the same time. After all, the vital force is subject to numerous affecting influences constantly. If the room you’re in is too hot or too cold to maintain your current body temperature at its current metabolic rate, the vital force will adjust your metabolism to achieve homeostasis. If you drink more water than you really need, your vital force will simply increase your kidneys’ excretion of water to keep your electrolytes concentrated within a narrow range. While it is possible for a strong influence to suddenly antidote a homeopathic remedy, it is also obvious that the correct remedy can act regardless of how many small demands are placed on the vital force at the same time. Otherwise, it would be impossible not to antidote one’s remedy in the course of ordinary life, and we know homeopathic remedies can sometimes act for weeks at a time.
This begs an interesting question though: if remedies work so well in combination, is there any advantage at all to using a single homeopathic remedy, as Hahnemann himself so vehemently insisted? Probably there is, when the correct single remedy is known. The following example can serve to explain: if you are naturally sensitive to music, as you may be to a specific constitutional remedy (especially if it is Graphites or Natrum Muriaticum), then hearing the right song played on a radio might make you cry. Now imagine you heard that same song, but in a room where there were a dozen televisions, each blaring a different station. You could probably still hear the music, but you would need to focus your attention on it closely, and you might be able to indulge in its sentiment sufficiently to be moved to tears, but it would be more difficult to do so given all the distractions around you. In the same way, the correct remedy in combination with other can affect you, but not quite so well or as easily as if it were given singly. For this reason, there is undeniable place for single homeopathic remedies, especially deep-acting polycrests and constitutional remedies.
Besides the convenience of its many combinations, Energique also has a variety of single homeopathic remedies available, most of which are the polycrest remedies employed most frequently in homeopathy, due to their extensive record of success and breadth of use (see also our Polycrest Remedy guide). However, a far greater variety of single remedies can be obtained through our custom compounding service. So if you wish to consult a homeopathic repertory to find your patient’s true similimum, or if a textbook case of Anacardium comes through your door and you want to prescribe constitutionally, the right single remedy and potency can likely be custom compounded in liquid form. While combination remedies are admittedly more convenient, there is nothing quite like seeing a patient improve radically in response to a well-selected single homeopathic remedy.
[i] Dorfman P, Laserre M-N, Tétau M. Préparation à l’Accouchement par Homéopathie: Experimentation en Double Insu versus Placebo. Cahiers de Biothérapie, April 1987, No. 94, pp77-81.
Any homeopathic claims are based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.